Dhaka, Bangladesh
Extending a hand of friendship

OFF THE TRACK

Extending a hand of friendship

Arati R Jerath

Mamata Banerjee chose her flowers carefully for Narendra Modi and Amit Shah during her recent trip to New Delhi. She carried bouquets of yellow roses for both when she called on them. Why yellow roses? Apparently, yellow roses symbolize friendship and optimism. Political circles are abuzz that the choice of flowers was Mamata’s way of symbolically extending the hand of friendship to two leaders she attacked bitterly during the Lok Sabha election campaign. Mamata is attempting a major image revamp before the 2021 Bengal assembly polls. And like her good friend Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, an important part of the makeover is declaring truce with Modi after he romped home to a second term as prime minister with larger numbers in Parliament than he had. Kejriwal was the first to realise that his constant high-pitched run-ins with the Modi government failed to yield him political gains. In fact, they reinforced the image of a disruptor and poor administrator. Notice how he has softened his stance since the general election. He has completely stopped attacking Modi and the central government. He supported the government on the withdrawal of Article 370 from Jammu and Kashmir. He even recently expressed faith that Modi would soon resolve the crisis in the economy. Mamata seems to have taken a cue from Kejriwal and decided to smoke the peace pipe with Modi. This was the crux of her mission in Delhi. And she sealed it with an invitation to Modi to inaugurate a big coal mining project in Birbhum. Mamata has set the cat among the pigeons in the BJP with the Birbhum invitation to Modi. Rajya Sabha MP Swapan Dasgupta, nominated by the Modi government, has shot off a letter to the PM urging him not to go to Birbhum. He has listed several reasons for opposing the visit. The most interesting is his “concern’’ for vulnerable Adivasi groups living in the area who he says will be displaced by the project. He has alleged that the state government has not even started work on a rehabilitation package for the affected tribals. He has also warned that land sharks are circling the area to make a killing at the cost of local residents. The name of the prime minister, he says, should not be associated with a project for which the due diligence process is yet to be completed. It is interesting that Dasgupta has sought to turn the Birbhum coal mining project into another Nandigram, but this time directed against Mamata.

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